To Wed or not to Wed?
Latest figures released by the Office of National Statistics reveal that there has been a decline in the number of couples deciding to marry with an increase in people preferring to just to live together.
With a 4% decrease in marriage rates over the last 13 years and a 3% increase in people cohabiting during that same period, there is suggestion that this is a modern trend which is only likely to be more and more popular.
It is common for people to think that when couples are not married, a separation may be more straight forward to achieve. However, legally, there is a significant lack of protection for cohabiting couples when they separate which can often lead to complicated disputes when it comes to dividing property and assets.
Although married couples have wide protection from legislation called the Matrimonial Causes Act, there is no such legislation which assists to protect couples who live together in the event of a separation. Cohabiting couples faced with a relationship breakdown instead have to turn to the rules under Civil Law which can prove to be complicated and at times, expensive.
Resolving a relationship breakdown when you are not married can be difficult and there may not be clear evidence about ownership of assets. For example, one person may own a property in their name only but the other person may have made significant financial contributions to the property whilst living there. There may be dispute about the extent of those contributions; how they give one person an interest in the property and how that legal interest may be quantified. There may also be children of the relationship whose needs need to be considered. Separation can sometimes initially lead to the non legal owner finding themselves homeless, as they may not realise what rights they have.
The legal protection hasn’t yet caught up with this trend of living together without being married and there is no immediate plan for the Government to change this. If you are living with someone or about to move in with someone, you can avoid the uncertainty by entering into a Cohabitation Agreement which can set out your intentions at the outset and hopefully avoid any disputes in the event of a relationship breakdown. Perhaps not the most romantic gesture, but a way of offering certainly and security to you both.
If you want further advice on Cohabitation Agreements or your rights in the event of a relationship breakdown contact Wolferstans on 01752 663295 for practical and straight forward advice.